Video game developers
[The following text is part of my upcoming master's thesis on the use of game mechanics in therapy games for children. This is just a rough first draft, and I gladly welcome all critique and suggestions – be it on a content level or regarding my use of language.
After having analysed some of the most-played Facebook games in previous instalments of this series (Candy Crush Saga, FarmVille 2, Puzzle Bobble Clones, Diamond Dash and Pet Rescue Saga), this final chapter looks at what is so "social" about these "social games" – if at all.]
It is a common assumption that games that are part of the Facebook platform are inherently more "social" than other games, since that platform offers the possibility to developers to tap into the social graph.
Some people suspect that if they know too much about a subject, they won't be able to enjoy it anymore. Let's call it the Critic's Curse: because they have analysed so much, they will find fault in everything and enjoy nothing.
Of course, there are the people that argue that this also applies to game design, as outlined by Josh Foreman in a blog post over at Gamasutra:
I’ve been interested by a pattern that I’ve noticed on Gamasutra and a few other game design related sites. Almost every time an article or blog is posted that gets into the psychology of gaming and game design there will be a comment or two along the lines of:
“You can’t turn art into a system of numbers and metrics! You are killing the FUN in games when you analyze them like this! Don’t deconstruct the magic that makes games what they are!”
He argues that this might be partially right, but more importantly that the medium of games is currently just in its infancy (or adolescence at best). It is trying to catch up to other media that have a long been established:
We are still working too hard at mimicking other mediums like film, but at the same time starting to pull away and define our own personality. This is a time for introspection.
We’ve been on the playground for a long time now. We’ve outgrown out our magical imagination world, and I think it’s time to leave Peter Pan behind and grow up. But that doesn’t mean we have to ignore Lewis’ warnings.
One of the reasons why getting into game design right now is so interesting is the fact that part of the business, of the creative process and of the production is still forming – and in a constant state of flux.
While on one hand, game production teams have grown larger in order to produce even more content (after all, many AAA titles boast to have 50+ hours playtime – which is 25 times as much as a normal action film), other people reduced their teams and are producing awesome games with teams of three or four people.
Jason Schreier over at Wired's Game|Life argues as well that games need auteurs: a single person with a vision for a game, as opposed to "design by committee":
Most games, like most movies, are a massive undertaking involving the work of hundreds of people. But many films — the best, some would argue — are driven by the central creative direction of a single auteur. No matter how many other people work on a project, auteur theory holds that it is possible for a single, strong creative vision to shine through. Bringing such a dynamic to videogames could result in stronger stories, more compelling gameplay — and fewer artistic and commercial failures that result from that well-established enemy of the creative process, design by committee.
And, which is even better, the industry is slowly adapting that as well.
... is, apparently, something Tale of Tales are rather good at. Robert Yang has a neat timeline of the current events. And it is not the first time they make people angry.
Of course, you can debate the value of their provocations, you can debate their contribution to game culture –
Tale of Tales is important and interesting... but also kind of not. Their conception of video games seems really narrow, perhaps out of necessity in order to target it effectively in their crazy dogmatic manifestos.
– the thing is: there is a discussion about what games are and what not. People might consider them to be wrong. But people might also consider Blizzard to be wrong, inasmuch as they pretty much only polish up the games they did ten years ago.1
No matter how aggravating/boring this argument may seem: It is important that it is discussed. Every game designer that plays a Tale of Tales game will either see how games could be made as well – or she or he will realise how games are not to be designed. Either way: everybody learns.
Here’s to the crazy ones, so to speak.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
Just an example, I am not trying to flame anyone here. Not much, anyway. ↩
In the future we will have reviews of new video games written by Janina Woods. Janina is – just as me – a future game designer and studies at the same university. She is well-known for her knowledge of Triple-A games.
In cooperation with PlayStation Switzerland, she will post reviews of new and upcoming PlayStation 3 games.
She is off to a fast start: here is her review of ModNation Racers (in German).